Robert Gates on the Growing Presence of Russia and Iran in Latin America

Latin America and the Caribbean

Recently, the growing presence of Russia and Iran in Latin America - especially in left-wing governments such as Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Bolivia - has elicited some concern in the United States. Yesterday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave his opinion on Russia and Iran's role in Latin America at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on challenges the Defense Department faces. Below are excerpts of Secretary Gates' answer to Senator Mel Martinez's question on the subject from the Voice of America article "Gates warns of Iranian influence in Latin America" by Julia Ritchey. In response to the recent visit of Russian warships to Venezuela, Gates said: "At 40 dollar oil the Russian navy does not bother me very much. This is the first time they've had an out of area exercise in a decade or so; it's important for us to keep perspective about their capabilities" "I felt that our best response to the Russian shit visits to Venezuela was nonchalance. In fact, if it hadn't been for the events in Georgia in August, I would've tried to persuade the president to invite the Russian ships to pay a port call in Miami, because I think they would've had a lot better time than they did in Caracas." In terms of Iran, however, Gates showed more concern: "I'm concerned about the level of, frankly, subversive activity that the Iranians are carrying on in a number of places in Latin America, particularly in South America and Central America. They're opening a lot of offices and a lot of fronts behind which they interfere in what is going on in some of these countries." To track Iran and Russia's influence in the region, news articles from the past year can be read here, for Iran, and here, for Russia.